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A man the people did not elect was appointed President... but the people do not take to the streets. Related Gully Coverage

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U.S. Supreme Court, Wash. D.C., Dec. 13. A lonely protester, Dom Dommisse of Glenndale, Md. Steve Helber

United States

The Deafening Silence of a Nation

by Ana Simo

DECEMBER 27, 2000. The dirtiest U.S. election in more than a century—and one of the dirtiest elections anywhere in the world in recent times—elicited nary a public peep from the American people. Whatever they felt, Americans largely kept it to themselves. The nation's deafening silence as democracy was trampled is the saddest outcome of this election.

The world sits not so much in admiration that tanks are not rolling down Main Street—as the self-important American media tells its captive audience—as it sits in disbelief at the submissive national mood.

A man the people did not elect was appointed President by five black-robed politicians and a state government machinery controlled by the man's own brother, but the people do not take to the streets. Only in America.

Indifference to both candidates may be responsible. Plus the quick onslaught of conformist, self-congratulatory propaganda spewed out by the media and by both political parties—of the "time to rally 'round the flag and be good sports" kind. Within seconds of George W. Bush's judicial installation, network anchors were hectoring people to accept the outcome, however abhorrent—a shockingly inappropriate, politicized, and unsolicited piece of advice.

However, the bipartisan media brainwashing would not have worked if it had not found a fertile ground in the nation's admirable respect for the rule of law and democratic institutions, and the importance it attaches to stability.

The nation's silent equanimity of the last few days is based on the belief that there will always be another day, another election, another court ruling, another congressional decision. That there will always be another opportunity to right the wrongs of today. Americans know their democracy has so far balanced its deep conservatism with a flexible, limber, dynamic streak. The losers of today accept defeat because they know they can be the winners of tomorrow. Nothing is ever completely lost in American politics.

whitman and bushThe forty-five percent of Americans who, according to a recent poll, are dissatisfied with the result of the elections and the forty percent that think George W. Bush did not win the election legitimately, probably believe not only that unity trumps today's injustice, but that injustice will be rectified later. But, does it? And will it?

I'm not so sure. Clinton's impeachment was an immoderate, if not abusive, manipulation of the constitutional powers of Congress. But the installation of Bush in the White House by politicized judicial fiat and state government intervention is a far more dangerous blow to the very democratic institutions the nation is being called on to protect with obedient silence.

Silence is consent. And by consenting to an illegitimate Presidency, one that is not the product of a democratic election, Americans, bent on keeping peace today at any cost, may be sending instead a message of impunity to an increasingly corrupt political class: in other words, they can do as they please.

I suspect that history will not be kind to either major political party. Republicans have been the perpetrators of both the Clinton impeachment and the Bush usurpation. Democrats have been the enablers. Had their presidential candidate, Al Gore, not pretended that the last eight years, impeachment excesses and interns included, had never happened, this brazen grab for power would not have taken place.

The damage is done. No amount of January demonstrations, let alone February political strife, will undo it. Soon it will be in poor taste to raise Bush's illegitimacy issue. Pragmatism will prevail: Bush will be blasted for his conservative policies, not for his illegitimate origins. With no opposition to keep the issue alive, the nation will forget and Bush will legitimize himself just by virtue of living in the White House, possession being nine-tenths of the law. The process has already begun.

I used to sleep soundly every night knowing that the famously resilient American society and political system would be there next morning when I woke up. Not anymore.

In Depth

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Color and Cash
race and classThe Gully's complete coverage of race and class, two intertwined pillars of American society.

New World
new worldOur Americas. Politics, democracies, failed utopias, and the sullen heirs of colonialism: from Canada to Argentina.

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